Graeme Park & Nightspot Talk


Immersive Cinema crew Nightspot Cinema have come up with a stellar idea. This coming October (the 2nd to be precise) Nightspot are screening 24 Hour Party People, Michael Winterbottom's acutely well observed dramatisation of the rise and fall of Factory Records. With Steve Coogan delivering an uncanny performance as Factory mastermind Tony Wilson, the film is one of the small number to have accurately nailed the hedonism, invention and catastrophe that went into UK rave culture. 

To accompany the film, the lads have decided to recreate Factory's iconic club, the Hacienda. There currently remaining tight lipped on where the venue (other than London…) but they have announced that Graeme Park, the club's original resident, will be taking to the decks. We thought we'd have a chat with Nightspot founders Ricardo and Jason, alongside Park himself, to talk Factory, raving and mayhem…

So lads, do you want to start by telling me what’s going on with the cinema and how Graeme got involved with it.

Jason: Absolutely. So we have been planning to put an event on with the film 24 Hour Party People, probably since we began, so we’re very excited about this party because we’ve had it on our minds for a long time. 

Graeme, you made your name DJing at The Hacienda. What are your feelings on the film 24 Hour Party People?

Graeme: I always feel that films never ever portray clubs properly and I’ve seen loads of films over the years with scenes set in clubs, and they’re never accurate. Even the film about Studio 54 never seemed quite right. There are loads of examples of films and TV shows where they just don’t get the clubs scenes accurate. When I heard that they were going to rebuild the inside of The Hacienda I was a bit cynical, but that was until I turned up on the film set. The Hacienda had actually got knocked down about six months before they started filming, so they had to rebuild the interior. Me and many others that used to work at Hacienda thought that there was no way they would get it right.

Anyway, the night of the filming, because I was DJing on set I got to go in early. It was bizarre, because in a warehouse in Manchester they’d built this set, and I turned up in the car, parked up and walked up towards the warehouse and there was a massive queue outside, just like The Hacienda was. Everyone was told they had to dress authentically, so everyone had dressed like they were in the late ‘80s. So first of all, I’m walking down the street and people were shouting 'Parky!' and it was weird because it was exactly like it was in 1988/89. We walked into the warehouse and walked into the set and unbelievably it was, to the millimetre, exactly like the Hacienda was. It even had that blue glow that it had to it before it opened and this cold eeriness about it. I asked someone where the DJ box was, and they said, ‘You know where it is!’ and I went, ‘God yeah, I do don’t I.’

So I walked over to the booth and up the stairs and knocked on the door, it was even the same stable door as it used to be. Now, when you knocked only the top would open and the bottom half stayed shut. The top half opened and there was Mike Pickering the other side of the door. So I’m just like, ‘Oh my God!’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, now you think this is weird. Come in the booth.’ So I went into the booth and they had got the original equipment. Same decks, same mixer, everything.

I’m going to get really geeky here, what were the decks and mixer? Were they Technics?

Graeme: Yeah, the original three Technics SL 1200 series and the original mixer, which was one that wasn’t very widely used elsewhere. I can’t remember what it was called now… But then I looked to the right and to the right of the DJ box was a glass window that was always open, and it was there open, then on the other side was the lighting booth and Mark and Jonathan, who used to do the lights, were also there stood smiling at me. It was just incredible. They opened the doors and everyone came in and we started playing tunes and it really did feel like we were back at Hacienda for one night. The only thing was that we had to keep stopping the music and giving instructions to everyone. But other than that, it really was unbelievable. When the film came out and we all came to see it, it is without a doubt, a 100% accurate portrayal of what The Hacienda was like. I have never seen another film, before or since, that have clubs scenes that are as uncannily accurate as in 24 Hour Party People.

What kind of people were there in the filming? Was it kidsthat couldn’t have been there the first time round?

Graeme: Well Hacienda closed in 1997 and it was knocked down in 1999, so the people that came were actually the people that would have been coming to Hacienda. I used to wander around the club when I wasn’t DJing, and I did it this night too, and I was wandering around seeing faces of people that I knew and people that I recognised and they all had massive smiles on their faces. One of the reasons that it is so effective is that a lot of the people in there dropped an E. The only thing that wasn’t actually accurate was the toilet, and I went downstairs and pushed my way past the bar to go to the toilet and I went through the door and it was horrible. But apart from that it was all the same. They even had the little café that used to be there. All the original posters were there and they even managed to dig out the old bar staff too.

It must have been pretty unnerving for you.

Graeme: It was, because previously me, Peter Hook and Tony Wilson were invited by Channel 4 News to talk about The Hacienda and watch it being demolished from the inside. We stood inside and watched a JCB drive across the dance floor and with its massive arm grab the top of the proscenium arch above the stage and start to demolish the stage. The three of us all had our arms around each other with lumps in our throats and afterwards I just wished I’d never gone. I wish I’d never gone to witness that, because every time that someone mentions The Hacienda now I just have a vision of this JCB destroying the place. Then, 6 months later to be back in Haciencda with the people that used to go there, playing the tunes that we used to play was just brilliant as now that image of the JCB has vanished from mind. When someone mentions it now the images of the film reinforce the very fond memories I have of the place.

Was Tony still alive when they were making the film?

Graeme: He was, and I remember seeing him there. There’s a great picture of him with Steve Coogan. The thing about Steve Coogan, in the film, he is totally believable as Anthony H Wilson, because unless you lived in the North West of England, you wouldn’t have been aware of Tony Wilson as a TV presenter or reporter. So the opening scene in the film is a very famous recreation of Tony doing a report on hang gliding, which ends up with him crashing into the side of the hill. If you watch the film and then afterwards go home and search for the original reports with Tony Wilson, it is just so so accurate. The other thing was that, because I became friends with New Order and Happy Mondays and everyone, the actors who portray them actually did a really really good job. It’s very bizarre, because it’s one thing to watch a film based on fact, and you just have to accept the actors are doing a good job, but when you actually now the people that they’re playing and you’re part of the story, and then to watch the film and actually believe it, just shows you how accurate and incredible the film actually was.

One thing that I think is really interesting about 24 Hour Party People is that it shows that there were people playing House music up in Manchester quite early on, contrary to the often shared belief that the scene started in London

Graeme: Absolutely. I remember that there was this film that came out called One More and it was about DJs and the last record that we played. There’s a part in it with Mark Moore from S’Express and it challenges the fact that it was played up North first. I started DJing at The Garage in Nottingham before The Hacienda and I was playing all the House imports in like ‘85/’86 and so was Mike Pickering in Manchester. We both got asked to go to London, and there were some DJs that were playing it, but it wasn’t on the same scale. I remember Ashley Beedle getting me down to do a warehouse party in London in ’87 and I remember people going, ‘what’s this poofs music that you’re playing? Get some Rare Groove on.’ People like Mark Moore and Jazzy M and a few others were playing House, but not very many. I was playing The Garage and The Fan Club and the Lead Mill in Sheffield, Mike was doing The Hacienda on Wednesdays and Fridays, but it wasn’t really until late ’88 when Nicky Holloway did The Trip at The Astoria that the House music thing really exploded in London. I’m sure if Mark was here we could have a big ol’ debate about it.

What do you think it was that made it catch on in these Northern clubs to such a degree?

Graeme: Well, I don’t really know. I do remember that in Nottingham I was working in a record shop whilst DJing at The Garage and all these obscure imports were coming in from Chicago and Detroit and I just thought that they were amazing. They kind of mixed in quite well with everything else. Before House music you were playing lots of Soul, Funk and Disco and there were lots and lots of 12”s of mixes of stuff by people like Human League and ABC, Talking Heads and Blonde and stuff and it just fed in with that really well. It just started to take over and people just embraced it, they really did. You did have the odd miserable idiot that told you to get the shit off, but essentially it took over. Also, the fact the Ecstasy first appeared in Manchester and in the North West- it came over from the Liverpool docks- and when it combined with House music and The Hacienda, it really caused this Summer of Love, Acid House nonsense that went to take over the rest of the country and the world. Up until the late ‘90s it was the biggest thing going.

There’s a lot of hedonism in 24 Hour Party People and a lot of disasterous decisions based on that as well, is that something that you can relate too?

Graeme: Oh absolutely. The Hacienda was a club run for hedonists, by hedonists and the Hacienda ended up as a blueprint for a lot of other clubs. Cream openly admitted that it was influenced by Hacienda, so was Gatecrasher and even Ministry of Sound. Hacienda was based on the idea of the New York nightclub, and so were the others, but they all looked at Hacienda and thought that that is what they wanted to do. The only difference was that Cream, Gatecrasher and Ministry of Sound did it properly and set up proper businesses, proper accountants and were really good and the marketing side of things. Whereas The Hacienda was kind of just this free thing where if you had an idea you could put it to them and they’d probably say yes, go and do it. New Order and their late manager Rob Breton were bank rolling it and if you read Peter Hooks book, How Not To Run A Nightclub, it’s 100% true. When you think about it, it’s quite shocking that it was run that way, but that was part of its charm. If it wasn’t run that way then you’d have had accountants or directors telling people that they couldn’t afford to do this or that and it wouldn’t have been the club that it was. Then, if it hadn’t been the club that it wasn’t, the other clubs that I just mentioned would never have tried to emulate it.

But, even though it went bankrupt and it closed and then got demolished, The Hacienda still exists and still goes on. Plus, the thing is, when we do nights in Manchester now at Sankeys or The Albert Hall, if you go to a Hacienda night in Manchester that’s the closest that you’re going to get to the real thing. The bizarre thing is that me and Mike Pickering for the past couple of years have done Sankeys, WHP and Albert Hall together, under the Hacienda banner, and 70 – 80% of the audience are too young to have gone to The Hacienda. But, we really like that and it meant that if you’re playing to a crowd that’s mainly made up of people that never went to The Hacienda, they want to experience what it was like, but they don’t necessarily hear all the music that was used to play. Because they’re all under 30, they want to hear stuff that is relevant to them as well. The great thing for me and Mike is that in the past 5 or so years, loads of people have been making music that sounds like the tracks we used to play at Hacienda, so when we do a Hacienda night, we can put in a lot of contemporary stuff but then also a lot of the classic stuff as well and as I’ve been a DJ for over 30 years, I find that just brilliant.

What contemporary stuff are you playing then? I’m quite interested to hear what artists you’re checking for.

Graeme: Well obviously all the stuff that MK does, but then most of the stuff on Noir and Defected. Hot Since 82. Sneak still makes stuff too and Sandy Rivera and the Kings of Tomorrow stuff. It’s a real eclectic mix. If we do a night that’s actually billed as Hacienda classics, then you tend to get a crowd that’s 80% people over 40 that used to go to the actual Hacienda and the classics night will be about the old Hacienda and the music you used to hear there. But a normal Hacienda night will be anything and everything and we tend to get in newer and younger DJs that would never have played at The Hacienda, but it’s so that the brand lives on and the heritage that we have has developed and been used to help us grow.

I like that, it’s not dead.

Ricardo: No, it’s not!

Graeme: But I tell you what’s weird, you get people that used to go to The Hacienda and I’ll talk to them at the end of the night. I made the mistake of talking to this bloke once and he was with this girl and she said that she was going to the toilet, then when she left I just said that she was really nice, and then he went, ‘Yeah she’s my daughter.’ And all I could do was apologise, but he was fine and said it happened all the time. 

DJ trying to pull young girl shocker.

Ricardo: Haha!

Graeme: It’s strange though, because you really do get that. But the things is, with 24 Hour Party People, there are a lot of people in London that used to live in Manchester and there a lot of people in London who used to come up to The Hacienda or used to go to university in Manchester and we’d probably expect a lot of that crowd to come down. The thing is, there’s so much music from The Hacienda period, I mean I was DJing there from ’88 to ’97, until I see the whites of the eyes of the people in front of me, I have no idea what I’ll be playing. That’s what I like about being a DJ for so many years, I’m ready for anything and I love digging out things that people have forgotten about and I’ll be doing that on the 2nd October.

So, Nightspot lads, you’ve obviously just heard about the amazing recreation of The Hacienda in 24 Hour Party People, are you shitting yourself?

Jason: Not too much. We’ve found an amazing venue and it’s not going to be down to the same level as the film, obviously.

Ricardo: Their budget was probably much much bigger than ours, but we’ve found somewhere that is really quite similar and we don’t have to do that much work to dress the venue and to make it look like that, because it already feels quite similar too it.

Can you say what it is?

Ricardo: No, not yet. We’ve been excited about this for so long now as it’s one of the main reasons that we actually started Nightspot Cinema. The Hacienda really embodies a lot of what we, as Nighspot Cinema, are about. We don’t have an actual club, but we have a moving club and the feeling you used to get from The Hacienda, we have that. 

For tickets and more info on Nightspot presents 24 Hour Party People head over here